Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has put the brakes on the navy’s plan to buy two new submarines worth 22.5 billion baht from China, citing the urgent need to divert funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantrawanich said on Sunday Gen Chan-o-cha, who concurrently serves as defence minister, had instructed the navy to postpone the purchase plan, because there is an urgent need to manage spending for the maximum benefit of the people.
The Defence Ministry concluded the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating, so Gen Chan-o-cha told the navy to push back the purchase of the submarines and hold talks with China to explain the delay, Lt Gen Tantrawanich said.
He said the procurement of the submarines is a government-to-government agreement between the Thai navy and its Chinese counterpart.
Members of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) also voiced opposition to the navy’s plan.
Deputy Agriculture Minister and PPRP secretary-general Thamanat Prompow said he had explained the party’s stance to the House subcommittee on durable product items, state enterprises, ICT equipment and revolving funds.
The budget to buy the second and third submarines from China was scrutinised by the subcommittee, set up by a House committee vetting the budget bill for the fiscal year 2022.
The navy will explain the need to buy the submarines to the committee today.
The PPRP opposed the procurement as the country is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, Capt Prompow said.
“Therefore, any budget spending must be considered carefully. The country is facing a pandemic crisis. It is like waging the Third World War,” he said.